Saturday, January 24, 2015

Thulcandra – Ascension Lost

Thulcandra is a melodic black metal band featuring Obscura’s frontman on both guitar and vocals. One glance at their artwork reveals that they’re big fans of Dissection, and even a single listen to their third album, “Ascension Lost”, would also give away that fact as well. This means that Thulcandra’s style of music is rooted primarily in the mid-1990s Swedish black metal scene where bands like Sacramentum, Vinterland, and Unanimated (alongside Dissection) were kings. On “Ascension Lost”, the riffs are freezing cold, the production is hollow sounding, and the vocals are a wave of sickening screams that even throw in the occasional “blech!” sound. Perhaps the two most common black metal elements – tremolo picking and blast beats – are present here. While the former is in high supply, the latter is more methodically placed. In fact, much like the aforementioned Sacramentum, Thulcandra’s drumming is spectacular because it is incredibly varied. There is everything from the Immortal-esque ride cymbal abuse, to lots of punk/thrash beats, to more spacey drumming with plenty of fills (to support the melodies of the guitar; see about 2 and a half minutes into “Deliverance in Sin and Death”), to ultimately punishing blast beats.

Perhaps what stands out most on “Ascension Lost” is the guitar playing. The riffs you expect to hear are on this album: dissonant chords and melodies that are played at absurd tempos. But what separates Thulcandra from the rest of the crowd is that the guitar playing has so much more to offer. Both of the first two tracks, “The First Rebellion” and “Throne of Will”, do an excellent job of showcasing the band’s willingness to incorporate more standard heavy metal melodies. In other words, there are impressive guitar solos and melodic leads whose foundation is melody, rather than dissonance. This is something that black metal as a whole tends to lack relative to other subgenres of metal (possibly in an attempt to be more “alien” to the rest of metal), but this guitar playing greatly improves “Ascension Lost”. Even the riffs occasionally fall under more traditional metal realms. In another nod to Immortal, Thulcandra incorporates some of those thrashier black metal riffs that were prominent on “At The Heart of Winter”. This is particularly noticeable later in the album on a song like “The Second Fall”. The band also makes use of acoustic moments, but never really overdoes it, giving you just enough time to recover before the next blast of chilling riffs.

As if Thulcandra had not done everything else to near perfection at this point, mainman Steffen Kummerer delivers one of the best black metal vocal performances in many years. He doesn’t do anything too different from his vocal approach with Obscura; it’s just that this higher-pitched rasp has always been better suited to black metal. As a result, you can feel an incredible amount of intensity in his voice, particularly when the rest of the music is going at full speed. This is the truly the best thing about black metal. With all of the madness and absurdity that occurs in this music, it is the sheer raw emotion that breaks through and makes an impact. And ultimately, this is why Thulcandra’sAscension Lost” is so brilliant: it was made by musicians who have an immense understanding and feeling for this style of music. They know what works and what doesn’t, and have put together and album reflecting everything great about the style of metal they play.

Be sure to check out and like Thulcandra on Facebook!

"The First Rebellion"
"Throne of Will"
"Deliverance in Sin and Death"
"The Second Fall"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Written by Scott

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